Listening to Fontella Bass’ ‘Rescue Me’ takes me back to my Now That’s What I Call Music! compilation collecting days – you know the series with the colourful cover sleeves and Britney Spears and Backstreet Boys on every tracklist until about number 34. It was the last track on Now…27 and no matter the reason for putting that CD in my player, when ‘Rescue Me’ came on it was time to grab the nearest microphone like thing, get my ass on that bed/stage and give a show to my (small) crowd of stuffed animals and Madonna poster on the wall.
It’s a song we all know without knowing how and all I have to do is sing the first “rescue me!” and you could probably complete the phrase. But in the mould of a true One Hit Wonder the song’s popularity is as powerful and sustained as the complete obscurity artists like Ms Bass end up in (speaking of which, where are the members of Fastball, or Marcy Playground or those two old dudes of The Macarena?). According to a New York Times obituary, Bass said she lived in poverty – despite the song being what it is – until she sued American Express for using ‘Rescue Me’ in a 1993 commercial.
That’s just how it goes; record companies make money out of the universality in your musical expression and the rest of us get to enjoy it without ever really imagining what it would be like to have the theft of your work constantly being flaunted right in your face—or ears. Just ask the guy from Semisonic, he wrote a book about it!
So here’s to you Fontella Bass – a lady with a great name and a really great song. Thank you for the music.